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Ten French towns you'll likely pronounce wrong

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Ten French towns you'll likely pronounce wrong
Don't get confused - here's how to pronounce the most deceptive town names in France. Photo: LetsBook/Flickr
17:05 CEST+02:00
The Local has toured France and found ten of the most tongue-twistingly difficult or deceptively tricky town names to pronounce, unless you're French that is.

Have you ever told a French person about a beautiful town you've visited and they have no idea where you are referring to?

The chances are you've been to a place in this list and pronounced it totally wrong.
 
Just like how the French language has some pretty unpronounceable words for many of us Anglos, it also has an array of hard to pronounce town names that might even put you off visiting. 
 
From the ever-difficult rolling Rs, to names that look deceptively familiar but actually are quite foreign indeed, the list is a lengthy one.
 
Here's our countdown that ends up with a place that local authorities should really consider renaming to make it easier for the rest of us. 
 
10. Versailles
 

(Ominous clouds at the Palace of Versailles. Photo: Artamir78/Flickr)
 
We'll start off with perhaps the most famous town on this list. With this in mind, most people wouldn't have a problem talking about Versailles, because the chances are they've heard it pronounced hundreds of times before thanks to its palace and the treaty named after it. 
 
But first timers would be forgiven for pronouncing it “Ver-saylz” given there's two letters Ls in there. The real pronunciation is more like “Ver-sye”.
 
9. Angers 
 

(Photo: Joanna Kopp/Flickr)
 
This is a rare example of a French town that's also a word in English. Angers. He angers me. Another example would be the village of Condom in south western France. 
 
But anyway, if you pronounce this town like the verb "angers" or even like a rhyme for hangers, then you'll only be met with blank stares. 
 
Ask for "on-zhay" and you're in for a chance or see video below.
 
 
8. Nancy
 

(Central Nancy. Photo: Juergen Adolph/Flickr)
 
You'd be very easily forgiven for thinking this town shares its pronunciation with the wife of the former US president Ronald Reagan or anyone called Nancy for that matter.
 
But there's a subtle and important difference. This town in eastern France is pronounced more like "Non-cee". Still having trouble? Imagine the French word for No followed by the Spanish word for Yes and you're getting close.
 
7. Orléans
 
(The Place du Châtelet in Orléans. Photo: DrMartinus/Flickr)
 
You've all heard of New Orleans in the US (Noo Orrrrrrrleeeeens), but did you realize that it's actually named after a French town? But more to the point, can you pronounce it properly?
 
If not - a word of warning: Never ask a French train conductor for Orleeeeens, ask for "ohr-lay-ON".
 
6. Troyes
 

(The Troyes historic quarter. Photo: WikiCommons)
 
If you have ever visited this town that stands on the river Seine, around 150km south east of Paris, the chances are pronounced it at first like a place in ancient Greece.
 
It may look just like Troy with an S but actually, it's pronounced Twah or - to make it easier - just say the number three in French, which is "Trois". It's basically the same. 
 
5. Auch
 

(The Auch Cathedral. Photo: Silja Rindom/Flickr)
 
Wouldn't it be fantastic if the town of Auch was pronounced Ouch?
 
Alas, the name of this extremely old Roman town in the south west of France is pronounced more like Ohsh. 
 
4. Quimper
 

(Photo: TJ Morton/Flickr)
 
You'd be forgiven for thinking this Brittany town was pronounced "kwim-pa", like a mix between quick and whimper. But no. It's more like "Carm-pair". In fact, if you blend the word "camper" and "compare" you've pretty much got it.
 
 
3. Rouen
 

(Photo: Thomas Hammoudi/Flickr)
 
A reader once told us that the word "Rouen" is hard to pronounce "unless you're a goose".  But this town in northern France is pronounced more like rroo-ahn. It's hard to spell it out, so we've included a video below. 
 
And if you're still stuck, don't worry. One of our Facebook followers, Onürb Öhn, is a Frenchman who describes himself as "nearly Rouen native" - but he says that the town's name "is still a mystery for me to pronounce... rouan, wran, roin, roan, rouen".
 
2. Caen
 
 
There is a double dilemma when it comes to pronouncing the Normandy town of Caen. Firstly many people would simply pronounce it like it was written "Carn" when it should be pronounced more like "Kah".
 
The problem is if you get it wrong you could end up insulting a local because the correct pronunciation of Caen sounds very much like the way the French say "Con" which means anything from jerk to idiot to that notorious c-word.
 
In some ways it might be better to pronounce it “Carrrrrn” just so you don't insult anyone.
 
1. Reims
 

(The Notre Dame de Reims attracts 1 million visitors a year. Photo: photos-et-voyages/Flickr)
 
And finally, number one. This town takes the cake as the hardest town name to pronounce in all of France. If you've never seen the word before, take a guess how to pronounce it first. 
 
...
 
Done? We don't blame you if you thought it was "Reems". But no, the word is closer to Rance with a French accent, in fact, it almost rhymes with the word France. Roll the first R a little and let the word disappear somewhere in your throat and you've got it.
 
We can only wonder how many tourists have gotten lost due to asking for Reems. 
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